Uzziah & the General

I am not sure exactly how I can express what I feel every time I hear this kid sing this song. There are hard things that come to mind, so before I say them, let me start by saying that I have only respect and the best of wishes for someone who has this kind of beauty inside.

First the song itself.

There are some doubts about the authors, but the best research indicates that it was written in 1945 by Ephraim Weinstein in an attempt to impress his fiancé. The melody was written by his brother in law Haim Corbin. Apparently it worked because she married him later that year.

The lyrics: (My translation – I didn’t like the one on the web)

The Shade of a Date Palm
Words: Ephraim Weinstein
Music: Haim Corbin

Shade of a date palm and the moonlight
A fiddle’s tune that bewitches the heart
The trembling sound splits the air
Pain spills out of your strings
Please play my fiddle, play your songs
There’s quiet darkness and a hush all around
Your magic tunes will soon ease my suffering

Play, play I beg you
The dream turns pleasant at the sound of your tune
Play, play I beg you
And let the moon hear my voice there in the sky
Why, oh why did you bewitch me with your lips?
You took my heart and left me
With the love, the suffering, and the pain

The fiddle’s silent – moon went missing
But echo of the song is still heard
And why, oh why I have no inkling
Why is the world so cruel and low?
Out of the ashen darkness rises
Beloved shape with a familiar face
A present sheaf of old pleasant memories

Play, play I beg you
The dream turns pleasant at the sound of your tune
Play, play I beg you
And let the moon hear my voice in the sky
Why, oh why did you bewitch me with your lips?
You took my heart and left me
With the love, the suffering, and the pain

Sounds simple so far, but it is not. For one thing, Hebrew verbs and possessive pronouns are gender specific and based on that, the song is sung by a male to a male lover. The original lyrics seemed to have been written to a female but the gender has somehow gotten twisted somewhere, because the three versions that I have listened to are all making the same error. The other interesting thing is that from the name of the lyricist we know that he was an Ashkenazy Jew. For someone who is not familiar with Israeli culture, that may mean absolutely nothing. This is however one of the most classic Sephardic songs ever, so it surprised me. I have previously heard 8-9 other versions before this one and I always thought it was a very good song. Definitely an excellent example of a song that manages to meld the Spanish and Arabic musical traditions to perfection.

But that was as of two days ago, before I heard Uzziah Tzdok sing it. I have since listened to it at least 20 more times and I can’t get over it. The first time I heard it, I was absolutely stunned and I still have a hard time not breaking into tears every time I listen to it again. My four year old granddaughter was here today and she heard the song while I was listening to it and made me play 5 more times. In addition to it being a really great interpretation this kid’s version is changing my outlook on some things that used to be a part of my basic makeup.

I am an agnostic and I have always had a very low opinion of people who follow any kind of religion. I hate the ones who are at the top leading all the other fools by the nose, and I pity the ones who are the bottom and cannot free themselves from the shackles that were tightened around them by well-meaning but uneducated parents and teachers. Uzziah is a 13 year old boy with a most amazing voice. He also happens to be a religious Jew with a yarmulke, sidewinders and that fringed garment that sticks out of your pants. Because he is allowed to sing, I assume that is a Chasidic Jew, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, these are small details. The first thought that went through my mind after hearing him sing, was that it is amazing that the most beautiful flowers can grow out the smelliest garbage. Following that thought I was forced to admit to myself that thinking these kind of things, contradicts some part of my inner nature. As an agnostic I need to be a lot more understanding as well as open to all possibilities. The fact that I am repulsed by all forms of religion does not negate the possibility that in some kind of world order these things may have an acceptable role. It does not necessarily have to be the role that they believe they are destined to play. Made me think of some novels that I have read in the early 70’s. They were all written by Gordon R, Dickson and were a part of something that he called The Childe Cycle. The very first one was called Dorsai or sometimes The Genetic General. There were some others that I am going to skip over because I forgot their names and because I am trying to keep this thing shorter than 2,000 words (and even that might be way too much.) The point that I am borrowing from Mr. Dickson is based on his postulated future humanity that was fractured by necessity and shaped by different environments into groups with similar traits. They were all products of the planets they had settles on and Dorsai was the one on which the most militaristic humans developed. They were mercenaries who never lost a war and of course as I was so much younger then, those were the kind of stories that appealed to me. One of the other splinters was the Fanatics. They were, of course, religious Fanatics and they almost won a war against the Dorsai soldiers because they were driven by faith and not by logic. Anyway, I loved the concept of The Childe Cycle even though I was not too crazy about some of the stories, especially if they involved the Fanatics. As a matter of fact, to this day I flip out when Bible thumpers set shop on my street corner or when they start preaching in a subway car I’m in. I do not have any problems with the ones who stay in their church or synagogue or whatever. Sometimes, I even go and visit them in their own habitat, but then again I also go to the zoo once in a while.
Intermediate line: I highly recommend The Childe Cycle and will dig out my old copies – I need to read them again.

So now, back to the song. Here are some other things that went through my mind while listening to it.
1. At his age I was probably that good, but I didn’t get anywhere with it. I also did not find       a song that was this powerful or any kind of support frame.
2. Very strangely, looking at this frail 13 year old, I could totally see how David could slay       Goliath.
3. Religions are composed of people and a lot of them are rotten, but if something like this     can come out of them, perhaps they are not all bad.
4. When I was studying the Song of Solomon in eighth grade, I was too critical of the                  teacher who tried to explain that some of the verses were attempting to explain the love      of  God through the love of a man for a woman. Hearing this song I actually understood      that in a flash.
5. Seeing the video of the performance and the reactions of the faces and bodies of the              listeners is something that I need to elaborate on. There is no way these people will              admit to what happened, but it is all there, pay attention.

This is the part that might piss everybody off. I am just going to tell it as I see it.
To start with, let us keep in mind that this is a 13 year old boy and that according to his tradition, he is not a boy anymore, but a man. He is singing a song of love, passion, suffering and pain and though everyone might claim that they are reacting to the purity of his voice, they are totally reacting to the raw intensity of his passion. Please replay the video while reading this part and tell me that I am wrong. I will point out some highlights.

00:17 – Bearded man shaking his head – surprised by the voice’s purity.
00:21 – Female judge with hoop earrings – biting lip at the great voice!
00:24 – Female judge with purple top – letting out a long sigh.
00:31 – Boy’s dad mumbles – He thinks: you ain’t heard nothing yet.
00:36 – The only guy I recognized – Yoram Ga’on one of Israel’s greatest singers, probably                 around 75 years old – pleased with the voice gives a nice smile.
00:50 – Uzziah releases the king that hides in his heart – the crowd reacts at once.
00:55 – Purple top – closes her eyes and shakes her head.
00:58 – Another bearded guy – opens his mouth in disbelief.
01:06 – Bearded man with square framed glasses – shakes his head
01:07 – Older clean shaved man – disbelief.
01:12 – Hoop earrings – embarrassed smile – she hides it by removing her hands from                      under her chin and tilting her head.
01:18 – Older woman with curly red hair – sings with him – her face is ecstatic
01:20 – Blonde judge with white jacket – smiles and turns her head.
01:41 – Purple top – closes eyes, shakes head again.
01:51 – Pretty girl in the audience – check out the expression
01:59 – Purple top – hard time controlling herself – turns to other judge saying: what?
02:08 – Another pretty young girl in the audience – raises her face up – she says                                  something indecipherable – I think what she wanted to say was: wow, that note                    hit me in a most unexpected place – her smile tells me a lot more.
02:11 – Purple top – I’m not sure what is happening.
02:12 – Square framed beard – smile says – are you kidding me?
02:24 – Dark hair frameless glasses – totally lost in it.
02:32 – Stunning old beauty with long white hair – smiling & nodding her head – Oh yes!
02:40 – Hoop earrings – biting her lower lip.
02:46 – hand holding couple – I don’t want to interfere but their joy is most obvious.
02:50 – Yoram couldn’t sit anymore – he is standing up clapping.
03:06 – Uzziah hits a higher note, shaking with passion – the crowd gets on its feet.
03:13 – Purple top – seems to be saying: Oh my God!
03:41 – Yoram’s smile is threatening to slide off his face.
***** – I skipped some, but here’s the money shot.
03:50 – This girl seems to be about 10 or 11 – She opens her mouth and yells out: woooh!               – She seems to want say: what just happened?
04:09 – Yoram’s smile could light up an entire town.

As I said earlier, I have watched this video more than twenty times and I cannot see that I am wrong. This young boy’s G notes have hit a lot of G spots and he seemed to affect a lot of guys in the same manner.

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